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The Date of the Parables of Enoch: A Critical Review*


Amongst the many incidental issues raised by J. T. Milik in his edition of the Aramaic fragments of Enoch from Qumran1 that of the date of the Parables of Enoch is perhaps one of the most important. Although there has never been anything approaching a consensus as to the exact date of this work, I would think it fair to say that many scholars in this century, if not the majority, have taken the view that the Parables are Jewish in origin; many have also argued that they date from before A.D. 70.2 Milik's view that the Parables are Christian and date from around A.D. 270 has such enormous implications for our understanding of the development of intertestamental Judaism and of the use of the term ‘Son of Man’ in the gospels that it demands very careful consideration. It also suggests that the evidence on which the Jewish origin and pre-A.D. 70 dating has been based needs to be re-examined.

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1 Milik J. T. (with the collaboration of M. Black), The Books of Enoch. Aramaic Fragments of Qumrân Cave 4 (Oxford, 1976). For a review see Ullendorff E. and Knibb M. A., B.S.O.A.S. 40 (1977), 601 f.

2 Typical dates that have been proposed include the early Maccabaean period (cf. Frey J. B., ‘Apocryphes de l'Ancient Testament. 1. Le Livre d'Hénoch’, Suppl. Dict. Bibles, cols. 360–4; Frey argues that the Parables were composed shortly after the death of Antiochus Epiphanes); the reign of Alexander Jannaeus (cf. Charles R. H., The Book of Enoch, 2nd ednOxford, 1912, pp. liv, 67, 72 f., 109); the reign of Herod (cf. Sjöberg E., Der Menschensohn im äthiopischen Henochbuch, Lund, 1946, pp. 35–9; Sjöberg allows for the possibility of a slightly later date, but believes that the Parables are from before A.D. 70). Black M. (‘The “Parables” of Enoch (I En. 35–71) and the “Son of Man’, Exp. T. 88 (1976), 59) apparently accepts the dating proposed by Milik. After summarizing Milik's discussion he states: ‘This is an impressive array of arguments, the result of which could lead to the total rejection of the Parables, in particular their Son of Man visions, as late secondary tradition, inspired by the gospels rather than the basis of their Son of Man Christology. The negative arguments, in particular the silence of Qumran and of versional and patristic tradition, seem absolutely decisive for the mediaeval origins and composition of the Book’ (Ibid. p. 6). He subsequently qualifies this statement by arguing that the Parables include old material side by side with later traditions.

3 The Books of Enoch, pp. 95 f.

4 Ibid. pp. 76 f.

5 Ibid. p. 77.

6 Ibid. p. 76.

7 Ibid.p. 57.

8 Ibid. p.76.

9 In his discussion of the quotation from Syncellus which he attributes to the Book of Giants Milik observes: ‘It is true that Syncellus expressly identifies this quotation as forming part “of the first Book of Enoch, on the Watchers”. It will be remembered, however, that he was acquainted with the Enochic writings only through the works of the Alexandrian historians Panodorus and Annianus (around A.D. 400). He could thus combine under the same heading and the same colophon quotations one of which did not come from the first Book of Enoch at all’ (Ibid. p. 319). Milik gives the text and a translation of the passage in question on p. 318; see also Dindorf G., Georgius Syncellus et.Nicephorus CP (Corpus Scriptorum Historiae Byzantinae), 1 (Bonn, 1829), 47.

10 Books of Enoch, p. 76.

11 Ibid. pp. 76 f.

12 Ibid. pp. 20, 77, 3s. The passage reads: ταρα⋯βοντας ⋯πò τοinline-graphic τετ⋯ρτου τinline-graphicν ⋯γρηγóρων inline-graphicρχονtau;ος χωραβιήλ τò τουinline-graphicinline-graphicλìου ⋯νακυκλευματικòν μέτρον εÍναι έν inline-graphic;ωδεκα, μοíραις τριακοσíαις ⋯ξήκοντα ⋯ δinline-graphicμοinline-graphicρinline-graphicέστιν ⋯μέρα καì λεπτ`ν inline-graphicν(see Dindorf; Syncellus, I, 57; Milik, Books of Enoch, p. 319).

13 Ibid. p. 77. The evidence for this view is set out more fully in Milik's article, ‘Fragments grecs du Livre d'Hénoch (P. Oxy. xvii 2069)’, Chronique d'Égypte xlvi (1971), pp.321–43. Milik argues that the five fragments of this manuscript correspond to parts of the Book of Dreams and the Book of Astronomy, viz. ft. ir+2r = En. 85. 10–86. 2; fr. iv+2v = En. 87. 1–3; fr. 3V = En. 77. 7–78. 1; fr. 3r = En. 78. 8; ft. 5 probably belongs with fr.3, and ft. 4 with frs. 1 and 2. Differences in the character of the papyrus fragments to which the original editor (Hunt) referred, and Milik's calculations, on the basis of his restoration of the text, as to the length of the lines of fragments 1 and 2 as compared with that of fragment 3, lead him to conclude: ‘On retiendra…comme un fait établi que l'écrit astronomique et Ic livre des Songes de notre papyrus grec n'étaient pas réunis à l'origine dans un même codex’ (Ibid. p. 343). Milik's identifications may be right, but the fragments themselves are so small that it seems doubtful whether any firm conclusions can be based upon them. For the text of the fragments see Hunt A. S., The Oxyrhynchtss Papyri, part xvii (London, 1927), 68.

14 Books of Enoch, pp. 92–6.

15 Ibid. p. 95.

16 Ibid. p. g6.

17 Ibid. pp. 93 f.

18 The Book of Enoch, 2nd edn, p. 99.

19 The literary form of the Parables, the account of a heavenly journey, is closely comparable to that used in En. 14. 8–36. 4.

20 Books of Enoch, pp. 95 f.

21 Ibid. p. 91.

22 Cf. Knibb M. A. (in consultation with E. Ullendorif), The Ethiopic Book of Enoch. A New Edition in the Light of the Aramaic Dead Sea Fragments (Oxford, 1978), ii, 42, 137.

23 For a discussion of this question see Ibid. pp. 37–46; Ullendorif E., ‘An Aramaic “Vorlage” of the Ethiopic Book of Enoch?’, Atti del Convegno Internazionale di Studi Etiopici (Academia Nazionale dei Lincei. Problemi Attuali di Scienza e di Cultura 48) (Rome, 1960), pp. 259–67.

24 Theisohn J., Der auserwählte Richter. Untersuchungen zum traditionsgeschichtlichen Ort der Menschensohngestalt der Bilderreden des Äthiopischen Henoch (Studien zum Umwelt des Neuen Testaments 12) (Göttingen, 1975). See my review in J.S.S. 30 (1976), 197200.

25 For a recent discussion of ii QMelch see Horton F. L., The Meichizedek Tradition (SNTS Monograph Series 30) (Cambridge, 1976), pp. 6482.

26 Der Menschensohn, pp. 35–7.

27 The Book of Enoch, 2nd edn, p. 109.

28 Der Menschensohn, p. 39.

29 Cf. above, pp. 348 f.

30 Hindley J. C., ‘Towards a Date for the Similitudes of Enoch. A Historical Approach’, N.T.S. 14 (1967/1968), 551–65.

31 Ibid. p. 553.

32 Ibid. pp. f. The passages to which he refers are Or. Sib. 4. 137 if., 5. 99 if., 143 if., 27 if. For the Rabbinic evidence he refers to Moore G. F., Judaism in the First Three Centuries of the Christian Era (Cambridge, Mass., 1927), II, 354 f.; the passages to which Moore alludes are Sanhedrin 98 a-b and Lam. R. on i. 13.

33 Ibid. pp. 558–60.

34 Ibid. p. 561.

35 Cf. above, pp. 348 f. The oldest Rabbinic evidence to which he (indirectly) alludes belongs in the time of Hadrian, cf. Moore, Judaism, II, 114, 354.

36 Cf. Cary M. and Scullard H. H., A History of Rome down to the Reign of Constantine (3rd ednLondon, 1975), pp. 438 f., 440; Widengren G., ‘Qucique rapports entre Juifs at Iraniens a l'epoque des Parthes’, S. V. T. 4 (1957), 201 f. For a general discussion of the Parthian campaign see Lapper F. A., Trajan's Parthian War (Oxford, 1948).

37 The Book of Enoch, 2nd edn, pp. xcv–ciii.

38 Cf. Glasson T. F., The Second Advent (3rd ednLondon, 1963), pp. 31–8.

39 Der auserwählte Richter, pp. 149–201.

40 Ibid. pp. 152–82.

41 Ibid. pp. 182–201.

42 Ibid. p. 253 n. 20.

43 It is interesting to observe that ‘furnace of fire’ does occur in En. 98. 3.

44 Vermes G. (The Dead Sea Scrolls in Perspective, London, 1977, p. 223) regards the last quarter of the first century Al). as the most suitable period for the composition of the Parables.

45 Der auserwählte Richter, pp. 100–13.

46 Cf. Ibid. pp. 108 f. Of the other passages to which Theisohn refers the most significant are T. Levi i8 (cf. υ. 2) and T. Judah 24 (cf. υ. 6), cf. Ibid. pp. 102–8. However, the date and origin of these passages is very uncertain.

47 It is perhaps worth adding that the New Testament writing which most explicitly attributes judicial functions to the Son of Man, i.e. the Gospel of John (cf. 5. 27), also belongs at the end of the first century; similarities between John and Enoch in this respect have recently been observed by B. Lindars (cf. ‘The Son of Man in the Johannine christology’, Christ and Spirit in the New Testament. Studies in Honour of C. F. D. Moule, edited by Lindars B. and Smalley S. S., Cambridge, 1973, pp. 57 f., f.). On the view presented here the Parables and John may be regarded as more or less contemporary reinterpretations of the Son of Man traditions.

* A preliminary draft of this paper was read at a New Testament Seminar held at University of London King's College on 23 May 1978; it was subsequently iead at a session of the Pseudepigrapha Seminar of the SNTS held at the Paris Conference on 26 July 1978. I am grateful to the members of both seminars, and particularly to Professor G. N. Stanton, for their helpful comments.

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